The first attempt at "free school" (1831)

The first attempt at

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  • School opening poster.

  • Journal L'Avenir n ° 195 of April 29, 1831, p.1.

  • Charles Forbes, Count of Montalembert, 1843.


  • Portrait of Hugues-Félicité-Robert de Lamennais.

    GUERIN Paulin Jean-Baptiste (1783 - 1855)

To close

Title: School opening poster.

Author :

Creation date : 1831

Date shown: 1831

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: CC 553 / d.1 / p.6

School opening poster.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Journal L'Avenir n ° 195 of April 29, 1831, p.1.

Author :

Creation date : 1831

Date shown: April 29, 1831

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: CC 553 / d.1 / p.5

Journal L'Avenir n ° 195 of April 29, 1831, p.1.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Charles Forbes, Count of Montalembert, 1843.

Author : BELLIARD M. (-)

Creation date : 1843

Date shown: 1843

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Imp. by Auguste Bry, 134 rue du Bac.Rosselin, editor, 21 quai Voltaire

Storage place: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Cliché Degraces

Picture reference: 1997 CAR 1051NB / PORT PC 221

Charles Forbes, Count of Montalembert, 1843.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Cliché Degraces

Portrait of Hugues-Félicité-Robert de Lamennais.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: January 2005

Historical context

The Charter and freedom of education

The Revolution established education in France as a public service of state, and Napoleon reinforced this monopoly by bringing all educational institutions under the authority of the university. Since the Concordat, religion has held an eminent place in law in the schools of the University where many ecclesiastics teach, even if the masters and families are sometimes opposed for differences of conceptions, in matters of religion or of context. teaching.

Some congregations such as the Brothers of the Christian Schools are authorized to teach. The Restoration granted them greater freedom and importance.

However, after the electoral success of the Liberals in 1828, the June ordinances imposed on Charles X put new obstacles in the way of the teaching of the Jesuits, an unauthorized congregation, reserved small seminaries for interns only and closed other ecclesiastical schools, which dissatisfied with many Catholics.

On the accession of Louis-Philippe, the Charter of 1830 provided for various reforms that were to be established by separate laws - including the freedom of education which was explicitly mentioned therein. This new concept gives rise to the expectation of less rigid legislation.

Image Analysis

New school poster

Claiming the freedom of education announced by the Charter, liberal Catholics: Henry Lacordaire (1802-1861), a young lawyer who took office in 1827, Charles de Forbes de Montalembert (1810-1870), son of a peer de la Restauration, who was just 20 years old, and Charles de Coux (1787-1864), publicist and social economist, announced by means of a poster that they would be the teachers of a new free school. They thus show that the freedom to teach consists first of all for an individual or for a private community to have the right to open a school.

They have voluntarily omitted to seek authorization from the University and claim to be part of the General Agency for Religious Freedom, a pressure group created by Father Félicité de Lamennais and his disciples to oppose any act that undermines freedom of Catholic worship or freedom of education. The opening of this "free school" is one of the first spectacular actions taken by the agency, which is pushing its theses forward through court proceedings and petitions to the Chambers.

The mention the reference "ne varietur "Was affixed in 1831 to the poster and the newspaper, when they were seized, because they are documents of instruction. The school, opened on May 9, was closed the next day, the children evicted without violence, and the three teachers prosecuted. The trial, sent to the Assize Court as a political offense, was brought up before the Court of Peers sitting in the High Court of Justice when Montalembert was invested with the peerage (following the death of his father). Defendants thus have a good platform to justify their act and deliberately support its legality. They face the minimum fine, but popularly win the case.

The future

Daily The future of April 29, 1831 exposes the theses of its founder, Félicité de Lamennais. The epigraph chosen by him, "Dieu et la Liberté", a famous phrase borrowed from Voltaire, explains his views on freedom and on his desire to dissociate the Church from political power.

Affirming that the freedom of education, desired by the Charter, is not compatible with the previous regulations, the group proclaims the right to override the monopoly of the University, because "Freedom is not given but is taken" . The opening of this school is intended as a response to the closure of the Lyon choir school (school for young choristers of the cathedral) where "the University has pursued freedom even in the choir children" and does not hesitate to s 'announce as the first demand for an overhaul of the organization of education, which should one day lead to a "free and Catholic University project".

The audacity of The future is new like its religious conceptions: justice alone is the basis of true legitimacy; Christianity and the Church, its depositary, must appear as the foundations of law, representing the future of society. In this perspective, the newspaper also defends freedom of conscience, which presupposes the separation between Church and State, freedoms of the press and of association, the right to suffrage, which must be universal. In foreign policy, the newspaper speaks out for oppressed Poland, Ireland and Belgium. The future wishes Catholicism to reconnect with the spirit of the century. He anticipates future designs with deep intuitions which, in hindsight, quite justify his name. But more than a media outlet, it is a forum, a means of recruiting new defenders of freedoms. He often acts with extraordinary clumsiness: he does not choose his opponents but provokes them all! In the eyes of the administration, The future is considered "one of the most anarchist newspapers".

The democratic action of The future is opposed by other Catholics. Attacked by the bishops unwilling to break the Concordat and by the Jesuits, it suspended its publication in November 1831. Lamennais, Lacordaire and Montalembert appealed to the Pope and went to Rome. When Gregory XVI (1765-1846) condemned by the encyclical Mirari your the social Catholicism of The future, they submit, but Lamennais later turned towards radical positions that would lead to his break with the Church. The General Agency and The future are permanently discontinued. However, a large part of the French clergy had knowledge of the doctrines of The future, and Lamennais’s audience reached various countries in Europe. In France, the question of freedom of education looms large, to which Montalembert dedicates his work.


The new attitude of the Church

This operation inaugurates a new tactic: the conquest of public opinion. It breaks, in effect, with the traditional attitude of the Church - the support of royalty. The debate sharply pits parties, Church, University and State against each other. It is indicative of the evolution of the positions of the Church under the July Monarchy: a desire for political independence from the State, the appearance of a Catholic parliamentary lobby, the importance of the issue of school.

The episcopate follows suit slowly, but is drawn into it. The position taken by Montalembert during this period partly explains the popularity of the Church at the start of the revolution of 1848.

  • Catholicism
  • Montalembert (Charles Forbes of)
  • school
  • free school
  • education
  • Lamennais (Hugues-Félicité Robert de)
  • July Monarchy
  • portrait
  • hurry
  • poster


Jacques GADILLE and Jean-Marie MAYEUR (under the direction of), Liberalism, industrialization, European expansion (1830-1914), Paris, Desclée, 1995.

Louis GRIMAUD, History of freedom of education in France, volumes V and VI, Paris, Rousseau, 1898.

Jean-Marie MAYEUR, (under the direction of), History of Christianity from its origins to the present day, Paris, Desclée, 1990-1995.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "The first attempt at a" free school "(1831)"

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